All smiles: HRH The Prince of Wales shares a joke during yesterday's visit
The Prince spoke with patients and clinicians about photodynamic therapy (PDT) – a pioneering form of cancer treatment using lasers.
PDT is a technique in which patients are given special drugs that make cancers sensitive to red light. Light from a laser can then be applied directly to the tumour to destroy the cancers. The therapy has the potential to reduce side effects, compared with conventional cancer treatments, and improves the quality of life for patients.
UCLH is the UK leader in this innovative approach. PDT is of particular value for treating a range of pre-cancers and early cancers of the skin (not melanomas) as the cosmetic results are so good.
The Trust has the largest programme in Europe using PDT in the treatment of cancers of the mouth, totalling more than 1,000 patients. The therapy may soon be an option for the treatment of very early lung cancers in patients unfit for conventional therapy and preliminary clinical trials are under way for cancers of the prostate and pancreas.
The KILLING Cancer charity has been promoting the work of PDT clinicians around the UK and its supporters include Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir David Frost, Chris Tarrant and Robert Plant.
In addition to its established PDT work, UCLH works very closely with UCL (University College London) on a host of research projects on cancer therapy. UCL and UCLH provide an excellent environment for innovative new cancer treatments to be developed from the laboratory, through clinical trials into routine practice.
Mark Emberton, clinical director for Cancer Services at UCLH, said: “UCLH and UCL provide a first-class environment in which to research and develop important new approaches to the treatment of cancer and introduce them into general clinical practice. Photodynamic therapy shows great promise in the treatment of prostate cancer because of the ability to treat only the tumour, not the surrounding tissue. UCLH is leading an international trial to assess the value of PDT in treating this cancer and the Prince met staff and patients involved in this work.”
PDT research programmes are designed to establish when the therapy can be most beneficial to patients, either on its own or in combination with other treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. It is essential to carry out careful studies comparing new treatments like PDT with conventional therapy to be sure that they are used appropriately before they are recommended for widespread use.
This research will be greatly enhanced by the new £100m UCLH cancer centre, due to open in 2012, providing many more opportunities for the Trust to deliver innovative treatments to cancer patients. This will be done in close collaboration with world-leading researchers in the UCL Cancer Institute, directly opposite the new building. These developments, along with many others, are designed to support UCLH’s ambition to become one of the world’s leading cancer centres.
Sir Robert Naylor, chief executive of UCLH, said: “We are delighted that The Prince of Wales has visited UCLH to see this important new development in the treatment of cancer. I am proud of the work this Trust is doing in such a crucial area and our strong relationship with UCL means more and more research programmes can be transported from the laboratory bench into treatment for patients.”
David Longman, director of KILLING Cancer said: “In so many ways, PDT offers the patients advantages over ‘conventional’ therapies. Over the coming years, the charity’s target is to see PDT approved and available for a dozen or more cancers and serious health conditions. But we will only achieve this aim if we are able to raise the funding required.”